TELEVISION / Filling our coffers with death and decay

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The Independent Culture
LEWIS Carroll would have enjoyed the logic of road transport I think, the way in which quite insane conclusions derive from simple and apparently unobjectionable premises. I enjoyed the news the other day that the government is to spend large amounts of money discouraging drivers from using the Limehouse Link, a road they have just spent even larger amounts of money to build. The problem (if I understood it correctly, and it's never easy in these cases) is that too many people are using it to get from A to B, while the government intended it to be used to get from C to D. You can almost hear their plaintive cry - 'It was a lovely road when we finished it - now you're driving all over it in your cars]'.

Transport 2000, which took the controls of Open Space last night for a special programme on current transport policy, took us further into this smog-choked Alice in Wonderland. Based on the Government's own projections of the increase in car ownership over the next 30 years they had worked out that we would need to build a motorway 257 lanes wide from London to Edinburgh simply to park the vehicles. I haven't checked their figure and I'm assuming they've been generous to their own cause (there are a few free parking spaces round where I live that they may not know about) but it was a sobering thought all the same. In some areas of London we have already reached the point where the ability to park outside your own house is noted as a 'feature' by estate agents.

Carroll, who liked linguistic tricks, would also have enjoyed the language of transport policy. Money spent on roads is 'investment' (hurrah]) while money spent on railways is 'subsidy' (boo]). 'Deregulation' means allowing packs of feral buses to hunt city streets for prospective passengers. They seem to be eating them - in seven years passenger journeys have dropped by 25 per cent, compared to 2 per cent drop in London, which is still regulated. 'Freedom' is what the car delivers us, the freedom, as Michael Palin pointed out from inside a traffic-bound vehicle, to have your quality of life diminished on almost every front.

There were more cheering elements - an account of a Cardiff scheme to reopen small railway lines which had exceeded its five year target for passengers in a few months and a description of Manchester's enviable new tram system. It was also heartening that you'd heard some of this stuff before, some of it as recently as Panorama's report on the link between asthma and car emissions, which suggested that Open Space wasn't isolated in protest. Even inside Government, it seems, people are beginning to mutter anxiously about the wisdom of letting an invisible hand take the wheel just as we approach a nasty bend in the road.

Working Parts, a showcase for young directors, delivered a little treat with 'After Your Gone', an excursion into the world of wills. Death is a great liberator, it seems, allowing even the meekest conformists to release a tiny spurt of eccentricity or resistance. 'To my wife, who is a perambulating vinegar cruet, I leave one penny', wrote one man and you suspected that during his life he never even spoke without being spoken to. Beryl Richards didn't quite trust us to get the jokes, reading some of the wills in funny voices ('I wish to be buried with the chassis, gear stick and wing mirrors of my Ford Angular saloon') and dressing her film with little visual gags. But

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